Gracile, artistic, charismatic, social and rare, Aeth are generally considered attractive, though somewhat alien.
Slimmer bones, a less-dense build, a subtly-different skull shape, a different musculature and long, lateral, pointed ears characterise the group.
The stockiest and heaviest Aeth could be mistaken for slender Somon, those of the most strange and gracile shape barely look anything like human, seeming almost alien.
The shifting of their muscle arrangement, combined with their hyper-sensory abilities, gives them a distinctive, flowing kind of movement. They can move with incredible speed and surety without much of the bobbing hip-to-shoulder flexing that signifies Somon and Deoth actions. They move like water flowing across sand, like expert dancers or masters of the rarest combat forms.
The lightness of their bones makes them vulnerable to breaks, the power of their muscles proportionate to weight makes them roughly as strong as a Somon, but faster, and with lower mass. The force of an Aeths blow comes more from the speed of its delivery than the weight behind it.
With their remarkable senses and shifting, torsional movement patterns, such blows inevitably land at the most vulnerable point, and the curving slice typical of Aeth close combat is a familiar sight to those who fight with or against them. They can open a neck like a second smile.
But against very well-armoured opponents, or anything proof against cutting or piercing, their classic styles can have serious limitations and wise Aeth practice with a range of weapons and styles for just such occasions.
The few scholars to have performed autopsies on Aeth have discovered multiple corpus callosum; slim bands of white matter linking areas of the brain across the hemispheres. Some Aeth have been find with two of these, a handful have had up to five. Somon have one.
While their hearing, sense of touch and distance vision is a little better than almost all Somon, the real strength (and curse) of the Aeth, is their ability to process patterns of complex information with enormous speed, fidelity and penetration.
They could literally find a needle in a haystack, if you spread the whole thing out, spotting the shining metal instantly. They commonly see camouflaged objects or hidden things. They can hear and understand two separate conversations at different ends of a crowded room.
The average Aeth sees like a forensic artist, smells like a great wine taster, touches like a fine seamstress and hears like a blind man. All of this is happening, at once, all the time.
It’s both claimed and denied by the Aeth that they possess a kind of taste psychometry, that by smelling or tasting something they can divine aspects of its history, where it comes from, what it has been exposed to.
No-one knows if this is a strictly physical ability, like a kind of super wine-tasting phenomena, or if it includes actual psychic or magical powers. Aeth seem to deliberately muddy the waters on this one, sometimes suggesting or performing actions that suggest some level of magical power, other times mocking and denying the same notion.
They claim to hate the taste of monocultured grains and tame animal flesh.
It’s rare to meet a badly-dressed Aeth or one with a poor sense of beauty.
'Bad' patterns are unpleasant to them, giving a kind of stupid or awkward feeling, like bumbling language, lumpy sweater or wobbly chair; frustrating and wrong. One reason they tend to prefer nature to civilisation is that almost all of natures patterns are fractal, possessing deep recursive complexity. Though it can be ugly, nature is only rarely awkward in the same way badly made objects can be. But when you do see them in civilised lands they always have an extremely tight and focused grasp on their aesthetics.
Aeth can tolerate ugly people, their skin, hair, iris, nails, breathing pattern, walk and movement still have natural patterns inside them, but they cannot tolerate ugly choices. People with bad or awkward taste, especially nearly-good taste, are almost tangibly frustrating for them.
Most Deoth-made objects are well made and, though not graceful, are finely proportioned and neat, making sense at every level of construction, so are not displeasing to an Aeth eye. It is one of the few things they have in common as groups.
As individuals, Deoth and Aeth can learn to get on quite well if they have time to acclimatise to each others quirks - but they generally do so through Somon groups. It’s been said more than once that without Somon, with whom they both have something in common, there might be very little interchange between the two.
PERSONALITIES AND POLITICS
Aeth are a little more sociable than Somon, especially the ones who semi-integrate in the Blackwater culture. But the major difference between the two groups is their level of openness to experience.
The baseline level of openness for Aeth is at the higher end of the human scale. In a sense, as a group, they all have an 'artistic' personality. This makes them much less tolerant of stable pyramids of authority. Very conservative Aeth are like reasonable Somon while those at the far end of the Aeth scale seem to Somon, almost mad; hyper-sensory, manic, sensual, unstable, interested in everything (briefly), communicating largely in song, rhyme or verbal games, making almost everything a game.
And in some ways, terrifying.
This, plus their aversion to monocultured grains and 'tame' grown meat, means they usually have a low population density and societies that focus on hunter gathering.
Aeth in hierarchies need to be rich to afford the rare foods they can actually tolerate, unless they want to go out licking dew from flowers, or drown themselves in drugs and alcohol to mask the unpleasantness.
Most Somon will never fully grasp that the differences between "Wild" Aeth, "Blackwater" Aeth, "High" Aeth and "Dark" Aeth, are really just differences in personality, politics and diet.
"Wild" Aeth live as migratory hunter-gatherer tribes in the Mountains of Reality. They are almost anarchist, having loose family hierarchies.
"High" Aeth are closer to the human standard. They like buildings, owning a library and being able to read a newspaper and go to the theatre and they are willing to tolerate a degree of hierarchy, and expensive food, to get these things. Because they live so long those willing to interact with social structures and hierarchies, over time they usually end up financially, culturally, magically and politically powerful.
The "Holy" or "Old" lines that still exist in the closed palaces at the centres of many of the Grey Cities are, or were of this kind but other such Aeth can be found in small numbers in a handful of cities and settlements across the Blackwater.
"Blackwater" Aeth are those who can just about tolerate the Blackwater culture, but who do not settle. They pass through, moving through society like "Wild" Aeth move through a forest.
"Dark" Aeth are those who have realised they can eat Somon and who do so. Some from a sense of racial superiority and natural right, some from pure maniacal Anarchism, some because they have been driven insane by the Wastes, the thieving rain, the children of Yggsrathaal or just normal trauma. They make a culture of preying upon people, either discretely, using subterfuge, or directly from marginal waste kingdoms and roving tribes.
These creatures are regarded by most Somon as almost a separate species; nightmare shadow-stalking predators. But of course any Aeth could eat a person if they really wanted to.
DREAMS AND REALITIES
Aeth can come wreathed in strange effects, as if they were entangled in another world, strung slightly across realities.
Their shadow can arrive a moment before or after they do, pooling like liquid. Reflections can be half a second slow, mirror selves make strange unconscious gestures. Some Aeth cannot sign their name the same way twice, or write the same name twice, there are some that plants bow to at unpredictable times, saplings leaning like courtiers. Some are continually mistaken by their walk for someone they are not. The portraits of some Aeth change expression when no-one observes. With others, anyone playing or singing music around them compulsively adds a timbre of tragedy to their voice or string, meaning they only ever hear sad music.
whatever they experience in their dreams, Aeth almost never speak about it, though they take it extremely seriously.
Their emotional state and even cognitive pattern can sometimes be altered hugely by something they experience in a dream. They can wake up crying or exalted, can change political, social or moral views while in a dream or, even more rarely can seem to go utterly insane in a dream, apparently suffering massive trauma, becoming incoherent, speaking different languages, with more or fewer skills and powers or with a totally different set of abilities.
This is not common, but it is well known. Aeth seem to accept this as simply something that occasionally happens. It freaks everyone else out.
You can never be entirely certain what you are going to get with Aeth.
Many think the Aeth dream that they are somewhere else, leading a different life, or that the Aeth may actually be in two realities at once, or believe they are, or that they take part in a self-awareness that is stretched across realities.
This might explain why they can have very strong reactions to other Aeth they have not already met and of whom they should know nothing.
It’s a half-open secret that Aeth can smell, or sense, many of the more common kind of monster.
“They were dumped into reality like cats into a mouse-plagued barn.” - Vosis Fail, excommunicated Sophont of Yga.
Generally, if you are in Aeth lands, or lands they are passing through in force, you are safe from monsters, as the two kinds will hunt each other to extinction.
Less well known is that Aeth find many 'monsters' delicious and will actively hunt them for food. They do not spread that information about.
What is almost completley unknown is they also find Somon flesh delicious. Even many Aeth do not know this, it is a closely guarded secret. They only really become fully aware of it if they taste human flesh or blood.
One of the things that 'attracts' Aeth to Somon is their smell; pungent but not displeasing, a little like cooked mushrooms.
This is part of what gives many Aeth their reputation for sociability with Somon. Most Aeth are educated to process this as a cultural, sensual or personality factor - many believe they are drawn towards Somon cultures due to their "energy", invention, opportunity and the things a dense hierarchal society can produce; music, arts, scholarship and amazing clothes.
This is partly true.
But many Aeth will never fully grasp that, to them people are delicious
As strange as Aeth can sometimes be, they hit many of the classic markers for attractiveness to Somon. They are also open, social, charismatic and often powerful.
A lot of people want to sleep with them, A few succeed. Children are rare. Fertile children are even more rare, but Half-Aeth are lot more common than almost any other kind of cross between Dreaming Peoples.